Are Sports Scores in the Public Domain?

Author:Mr George D Gabel Jr
Profession:Holland & Knight LLP
Morris Communications Corp. v. PGA Tour, Inc., 117 F.Supp. 2d 1322 (M.D. Fla. 2000), is the first reported decision to address how the publication of news via the Internet may be shaped by antitrust and intellectual property law. In denying a Motion for Preliminary Injunction, the Court in Morris noted that the development of a complete factual record and “an examination of both bodies of law and their proper application in a rapidly changing world” will be necessary to resolve the underlying controversy between the parties. Morris Communications Corporation is in the business of publishing news, in both the traditional print format and electronically via the Internet. As part of its news coverage, in 1996 Morris began publishing information about golf tournaments on its electronic newspapers. The most popular feature of its electronic coverage of these golf tournaments was its publication of real-time golf scores. As the term suggests, real-time golf scores are the scores of individual golfers published contemporaneously with, or as near as possible to, the actual pace of competition at a golf tournament. These scores are collected at each of the 18 holes on the golf course, typically by volunteers organized by the tournament's promoter. The scores are then transmitted, through wireless or other communication devices, to several locations including the media center located on the tournament premises. Upon being published in the media center, the golf scores can then be “re-keyed” by media organizations into their own computers for further dissemination, including publication via the Internet. Although some scores are also published on television, radio, and leaderboards on the premises, the media center is the only location where the “official” scores for all the competing golfers are continuously updated and available. This is particularly true during the first two days of most golf tournaments when there is normally no television or radio coverage. Cable News Network/Sports Illustrated (CNN/SI) was impressed with Morris' electronic coverage of golf tournaments and contracted with Morris to provide (i.e., syndicate) real-time golf scores. In 1999, this coverage included all of the professional golf tournaments promoted by the PGA Tour, Inc. Morris' attempts to cover the PGA Tour in real-time, however, ran headlong into media restrictions being imposed by the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour, like other promoters of sports events, regulates the media coverage of its golf tournaments. These regulations, which typically concern television, photography and print media...

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